Review: The Fitbit Flex
Can this fitness monitor help prod you into a healthier lifestyle?
Whether it’s wifi scales or bands that encourage you to keep moving, the fitness technology market has exploded in recent months. Now you can aanlsys your daily movement, how well you’re sleeping, even the air quality around you.
The latest device to hit the Irish market is the Fitbit Flex. Like others before it, the band will measure how active you are during the day, and track your sleep at night. It links in with an online platform and an app that allows you to record your food intake, giving you handy information on how many calories you’re burning and allowing you to identify trends over time.
You get two bands in the pack - a small and a large strap for the device. Once your device is charged up via USB, you simply slide it into the band and you are ready to get moving.
The band itself is reasonably comfortable, although not exactly high fashion. But the device is water resistant, so it’s sweatproof, rainproof and showerproof, which is ore essential for a fitness device than aesthetics. You can also switch out the band for something a little more colourful if the mood takes you.
As you move, the Fitbit Flex records all your steps, the rate of movement and how much distance you’ve covered. It has a small five-light display that will show you how far you are from your daily goal, how much the battery has charged and the band’s current mode.
Tapping rapidly on the display for a few seconds switches it into sleep mode (although it also makes you look a little silly). It’s the same movement to switch it back to active mode. The LED display will let you know which mode you’re in, as long as you can decode the meaning behind the lights.
However, on more than one occasion I accidentally put the band into sleep mode, and frequently forgot to change it over from activity tracking at night, so the device thinks I slept for about two hours on Wednesday afternoon.
You can also set a daily alarm on the device that will wake you in the morning without waking the entire household, which is a handy addition. It can be difficult to find the silent alarm feature in the online platform though, and it might require a bit of digging.
Unlike the Jawbone Up, it syncs wirelessly with both your smartphone and your PC or Mac. You need an additional dongle (included in the pack) to sync with your computer, and it also requires a small bit of software to allow it to read the information stored on the band. When the sensor is within 20 feet of the PC with the wireless dongle attached, it will automatically sync and push the data up to the online platform if you have an internet connection.
There’s a separate USB charger for Fitbit Flex, which means there are more bits to lose. Be prepared to have to buy additional chargers and dongles; losing them ins inevitable
Up to seven days worth of detailed information is stored on the band, and up to 30 days of general activity information. Beyond that, you’ll need to sync to ensure you get the accurate data uploaded on to your account.
This has a knock on effect on battery life; the Fitbit Flex has a five day battery life compared with the 10 days you get from Jawbone’s band. But it is far more convenient when trying to sync, so it’s a trade-off. Batery life is also signaled on the app, so there’s no excuse for letting it run down too far.
Fitbit’s platform also links up with apps such as RunKeeper or Map My Fitness, so you can make it part of your workout routine.
The Verdict: It’s reasonably easy to set up and use, although the different chargers and wireless sync accessories make it a little less convenient than the Nike Fuel Band, for example. Still, it could be a useful part of your health and fitness routine - if you remember to use it correctly.